Planning to Care

Lately I have so many close friends dealing with difficult situations – losing a family member, illness, divorce, children in trouble and the list goes on. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation where I feel I am comforting someone in their time of trouble. Thankfully, at this moment in my life, I am not experiencing a major issue. I have the energy and focus to devote to others who are in need.

But I realized something the other day as I was calling one friend to check on her and see if we could schedule coffee, and that is that I have another friend whom I have not been able to talk to in a while. I would think about calling her as I was in a meeting with a client, or perhaps with my children somewhere, but by the time I got home, I would forget and move on to something else. That friend is not feeling cared for by me right now, and probably thinks I have forgotten about her.

I started to think about how the work I do – helping people to prioritize, set goals and create a plan for success in their careers – could actually extend to the care and concern we offer others in our personal lives. I sat down and made a list of the people who are hurting around me right now. Next to each name, I made a note of when I’d last spoken to them, or emailed with them. I made a third column with anything I’ve done to help – run an errand, send a basket, drive to a doctor’s appointment, etc. Once I had the list made, I reordered it according to priority of the situation; some friends are in dire need, others are just going through a bad time. I don’t “value” them differently, but their needs are prioritized differently.

I started to carry this list around with me. It was so helpful to have when I would be out shopping, or find myself at an airport with time on my hands to make a phone call. I always carry a book to read or a magazine I want to go through but now – in addition – I carry my list. As I’ve said before in my blog and elsewhere, caring for others is a priority for me and even in the midst of my busy life I want to find ways to extend that care more and more. This approach has helped me to “organize” my caring for others!

It sounds so clinical and objective. When I first thought about doing it, I thought “Wow, I am taking this planning thing way too far! And I’m not even a natural planner!” But then I realized the impact of what I was doing, the ability I had to do things I truly cared about and make time for others.

Do you have anything you’d like to do more of but you can’t seem to get organized to do it? Perhaps you’ve read my book about understanding others and you’d like to use some of the principles in your relationships. Perhaps you read last week about having “fun” and you want to work fun into your lifestyle equation. Maybe you have a class you want to take or a book you want to read.

Capture what you want to do in writing. Make whatever kind of list or notations will work for you. How will you work this in? When do you want to do this? Who else needs to be involved? How important is this to you?

Take a few minutes to sit down and both identify what’s important – clearly state a desired outcome for you – and create some sort of approach or plan that will work for your life to achieve what you desire. This doesn’t always mean a new car, or a new job. It can be, as in my case, about something that deeply matters to you but that you just can never seem to get in place! If you feel you are up against obstacles, note what they are and then create some options that take your obstacles into account. Work around your obstacles – don’t ignore them. My main obstacle was time – I simply don’t have a lot during my work day, and at night I want to be with my children. But, when I made the list, identified the need and then started to carry it with me, I found time. Time was sitting in places I hadn’t noticed it before.

This week, think about what you want to do differently. What desired outcome do you have that you haven’t put In place yet? What would you like to do if you could figure out a way to do it? Capture it in writing and then create a plan to do it. You really can do more than you think you can do, but it does require thought, planning and a focus on making some sort of shift to your approach. Try it this week and see whether you can chart a new path toward your desired goals.